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Words for Women

26 new poems by Lori Heninger

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Words for Women is a collection of poems about reclaiming language. From the ancient Greeks’ Harpy and Medusa to today’s Housewife and Drama Queen, words with negative or sexualized connotations have been assigned to women and pejoratively used by people to diminish women and girls. Words for Women takes those terms and, through the sound, rhythm and intent of poems, demonstrates how they have been used and how they can be reclaimed as part of a journey to equity and wholeness.

Published by Quillkeepers Press

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When everything has been taken
and what remains behind are miles,
paths of footprints in earth;

when most everything known
(other than what one carries
inside a mind) is not here,

when one, alone, surrounded
by loss arrives at a camp,
an expanse of tents and questions,

data is taken, items are given:
food, clothing, bedding, utensils, pots,
jerrycans for water, cans of cooking oil;

resilience and will transform emptied cans
to planters: inside those tins, just outside
a tent’s flap, soil becomes home for seeds.

Tomatoes grow,
stringy plants seem too frail
to bear the weight of their fruit:

tended, they survive,
a line, a link, a memory,
a smell, a taste, the familiar fact

of picking and cutting and cooking.
A trade; this tomato for that onion,
becomes a market, vegetables

lying on sand, on a cloth,
their cost, a cause to speak;
the words, the exchange, this is known.

Click here to access: PoetryXHunger

Mother's Day

It’s Mother’s day. We are,
my grown daughter and I
in the clouding-over yard,
playing with bows and arrows
two bottles of prosecco in our guts
velocity and barbs lethal in our woman hands;
the rage the rage of all things female rises
I am ready, arrow nocked, rage
of my sisters my cells afire mitochondrial DNA
boils and tighter twists I see,
losing my mind a little,
a man’s image on the target,
release the spear, point through throat.


I have been told no so often
it has lost all meaning for me
I have taken, grabbed when I needed to
grabbed. I
will not be denied myself.

I, PhD, worked full time and wrote
I, author, write books
I, executive, guide organizations
I, glassblower, create art
I, strategist, took down a congressman
I, mother, grandmother, am the white bear

I am blue in the brain
and the red blood, the blood has fled
my shriveled uterus
I am tired, I am tired
having to grab and fight the same fight
of being a body a body a body

I am tired of telling
I am done with this
I can see it I have seen it, held the hands of
spoken with women I know them, the violated,
there on the sand, on the sand
I see it, it’s coming

Your religion, my god
we are lost under the tree, lost in the dark woods
I am furious I am the sand
I am the wind
I am the cleansing fire
I am the blood
I am the body

I will not be silent my life
has been a story of fearlessness,
my name is in the book
I walk the dunes, the wadis
the dry riverbeds, the stones, the sand
I will now tell you I will tell you and not
I am not willing to listen will not listen
we are done. I am the fire. The sand.
The body and the blood
and the brain. I am the white bear.        

I am not afraid.

Winter Bones

Winter Bones

Today I gathered winter bones,
knuckles, knees, bits of brittle skin:
sloughed limbs and trunks
oaks, maples, hickories, birch;
stacked the cart, dumped it all
beyond the boundary of the yard,
fall of responsibility, never dawned on me
I would, in spring, aggregate remains, tend
the place I saw as clearing, but no:
growing space dying space.

Tending the bones.

In parts of the world whole bodies
are buried, left to rot then, after mice
chisel their alphabet on a humerus,
carry away a finger joint, the rest are removed,
slid through a slot they slide then fall,
fall to crack on calcium honeycomb below,
the hollow ribs of others
unknown; skulls share stories; what else
do they have, there, in darkness,
arest, await
news of the new,
tsk change, remember
how important the familiar becomes,
recollect movement, then
describe the steps
of an intricate dance.

Click here to access: The Dillydoun Review


Cassandra, after a time
began talking quietly to herself;
full sentences, not quite mumbling
the coming events no one believed
but she knew,
she knew
came to pass, were true;

in her light gown, knees
atop the fecund earth
head bowed, lips
directed her words,
dropped seeds
toward finger-poked holes.

Cassandra, in her wild mind
knew the future crop she sowed:
a moon landing
a round earth
climate change
a woman’s body is her own.

Cambodia Lessons

Cambodia Lessons

Three women live in me,

one, her long night hair atangle atop the worn boards of a porch, lying down, facing up, knee bent, skin brown, elbow crooked, palm on head she may be sleeping (breath-starved humidity of afternoon), does not move; aside a shallow path two women, heads wrapped in white cloth sit sorting ivory grubs collected that morning on large flat baskets: they smile.

The road, red clay, washed away, we could go no further.

Three women live in me, movement and stillness, I call them up to wonder are they alive or moved or died. I’ll just have to say it out, no metaphors, no search for symbols:

there is life

happening across this world, around it, inside it at the instant tea touches your lips in the morning; you: not alone in your husk, it is happening, right now, you, me, separated by our skins

I re-collect right now the dog to my left the hickory in Delaware trout on my hook woman on the night side of the earth sleep live die rot bloom hurt thrive divide fail rest labor everything you

are alone and not alone, you, cup for all things allow the lives you find to remind you remind you you life everywhere and all the time, not as we believe we are by nature’s design of skin and skull;

I recollect she may no longer rest on the porch but something, something is happening right now, right there, on that small piece of earth.

Click here to access: The Bangalore Review

Love Poem

(for Marc)

The small slow stream,
tributary of the river that carried you
from the other side
of wherever the big god hid you
is now my sacred space; not a stone
and water place, the story of how
you flowed to me, how the knuckles
and broken bones of your life
moved you east from the flat plains and the
mountains with snow and the Pacific ocean;
the tale of you, white nomad riding the current
of the flow none of us can see, that none of us
know we ride.

“A Warning to My Readers” in Colossus:Body An Anthology on the Sovereignty of the Self. Available at Colossus Press. https://colossuspress.org/buy/p/colossusbody

“Pader” in Consequence, Vol. 15.1: Spring 2023. Available at https://www.consequenceforum.org/printjournals/p/volume-151-spring-2023